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'Business as Usual'

Switching to a coccidiosis vaccine doesn't have to cause headaches at the feedmill

Implementing and managing a coccidiosis vaccination program for broilers is not the hassle or logistical nightmare for feed mills that it’s sometimes cracked up to be.

In fact, today’s computerized systems and sophisticated management make it tough to slip up. Even if mistakes are made, it doesn’t necessarily spell disaster.

“In my experience, most modern feed mills in the poultry industry are quite capable of making routine feed changes,” necessitated by using a coccidiosis vaccine, says Dr. H. David Chapman, professor of poultry science, University of Arkansas. “It all comes down to quality control.”

Feed mill managers who have managed the switch agree.

“As long as the information is entered properly into the computer system and followed by dispatchers, problems shouldn’t result,” says Doug Helms, live operations manager for Townsend’s, Inc., in Arkansas.

“The same problems you could encounter managing a coccidiosis vaccine are the same that could arise no matter what products you are using, including in-feed coccidiostats.”

Learning to Juggle

Bushong: ‘Record keeping is minimized when you don’t have a coccidiostat and are not running combination products.’

Townsend’s began using a live coccidiosis vaccine, Coccivac-B, in broilers 5 years ago to help prevent resistance and improve the response to in-feed coccidiostats, Helms says. The hatchery sprays each flock for coccidiosis for a 6-month period. During that time, in-feed coccidiostats are withheld from the starter, grower and finisher feeds for those flocks. When the hatchery stops spraying for coccidiosis, in-feed coccidiostats are provided in the feed.

“Switching from a coccidiostat to a coccidiosis vaccine requires some effort,” notes Helms, “but no more than any other change at our feed mill,” which produces about 4,500 tons of broiler feed per week.

Dr. Linnea Newman, a poultry consulting veterinarian with Schering-Plough Animal Health, says there are two major areas of concern during transition to and from a coccidiosis vaccination program. First, there is a concern that vaccinated birds will receive feed containing a coccidiostat that would destroy the oocysts from the live vaccine and prevent birds from developing immunity. The second concern is that unvaccinated birds will receive feed without a coccidiostat, leaving them open to field challenge.

“The greatest focus needs to be on the starter ration. Vaccine-stimulated immunity to coccidial organisms requires two 7-day cycles for E. ace-vulina and E. maxima, and three cycles for E. tenella. If the feed mill can get the starter ration delivered correctly, most serious problems can be avoided,” she says.

Although normal practice dictates that feed should not be left on the farm for long periods of time, Dr. Newman says it may be necessary to deliver the entire 1.5 to 2 pounds per bird of starter feed to the bins of the last farms that receive birds before the transition is made. This allows the mill to make a clean break and begin delivering the new starter to the first farms after the change.

“High-volume grower rations can’t be delivered all at once, but a single mistaken delivery of grower feed on a given farm is not as likely to cause a problem for vaccinated birds,” she says.

Unvaccinated birds with a mistaken delivery of grower feed may need amprolium treatment, but only if the field challenge level is high, Dr. Newman adds.

It’s Manageable

“Concerns about making the transition to and from a vaccination program are legitimate,” she adds, “but we’ve found that managing feed for a coccidiosis vaccine program is business as usual. If a mistake occurs — and it is rare when one does — it’s manageable.”

Poultry scientists agree that the worst-case scenario would be failing to provide an in-feed coccidiostat to unvaccinated birds.

“I think you’ll get away with it for one flock,” says Dr. Chapman, “unless there are other conditions and diseases that exacerbate coccidiosis. Anticoccidials often are used as an insurance policy anyway to prevent, not treat coccidiosis.”

Adds Dr. Tim Cherry, poultry veterinarian at Stephen F. Austin State University, Nacogdoches, Tex., “The worst-case scenario is that you’d lose some birds and have to medicate the water. You’d also have to remove the old feed, put in the new feed with a coccidiostat and correct for the next cycle.”

Keep it Simple

To simplify the process and help assure mistakes don’t happen, Townsend’s maintains the same schedule for all its farms. “For instance, when switching from the vaccine to the in-feed treatment, we pick a date,” Helms explains. “After that date, all farms get unvaccinated chicks. The feed mill knows the feed must contain a coccidiostat.”

The procedure is similar at Mississippi-based Peco Farms, LLC, which also rotates a coccidiosis vaccine to prevent the development of resistance to the in-feed products, says Gary Nelson, feed manager.

“We have a cutoff date for the hatchery when it stops spraying for coccidiosis,” he says. “There is one person at the feed mill assigned to notify everyone about that date, and chicks produced subsequently must have an anticoccidial in the starter, grower and finisher feeds.”

The transition does require that feeds with and without an anticoccidial be kept in stock, but it hasn’t been difficult, Nelson says.

“We work with about 100 growers, but it’s not confusing for the feed mill. The feed dispatcher keeps up with the cycle on paper — and it’s in his head,” he says. “Some people would say that switching to the vaccine is a big deal, but it’s not.”

Dr. Rex Bushong, a consulting nutritionist from San Angelo, Tex., who works with Peco, thinks switching to a vaccine will actually make life easier at the feed mill.

“Record keeping is minimized when you don’t have a coccidiostat and are not running combination products,” he says. “Operations may experience some confusion in the beginning, but the benefits of switching to a vaccine might help them out long term.”

Source: CocciForum Issue No.1, Schering-Plough Animal Health.

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